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Smart Booth Transforms Lowly Phone Booth Into Solar Powered Community Hub

| Wednesday May 16th, 2012 | 0 Comments

In the last five years, the capabilities and applications of mobile phones has enormously expanded in a seemingly endless array of categories. The phone booth has stayed largely put, evaporating from the landscape, becoming a vandalism prone object of a bygone era.

The Smart Booth aims to change that trend.

Currently being tested in Turin, Italy as part of a broader EU Smart Cities initiative, these booths are as much a demonstration of what’s possible as they are aiming to usefully add to the surrounding community.  Along with being a touch screen-based information portal for area students, tourists, shoppers, social networkers and more, this solar powered booth will be offering wifi, conduct pollution monitoring, and has video surveillance that could be linked to the Municipal Police operations room.

Its video displays could serve as both revenue and awareness generators, showing advertisements and public service announcements, and information relevant to their location.  Six electric scooters or bicycles at a time will be able to recharge here as well.

Created by Telecom Italia, the Smart Booth is wide open as to how it will evolve. Recently concluding an engagement with the Politecnico di Torino and currently running a contest to seek ideas from students, developers and the online community, the Smart Booth is set to rapidly evolve as the trial run continues to expand to other Italian cities for the rest of 2012.

The Smart Booth is part of a greater citywide effort call the Smart City Turin Project, of which Turin Mayor Piero Fassino says,

…is our attempt at defining new rules of engagement between the public and private sectors in order to foster a network of government bodies, companies and drivers of innovation, all of whom are stakeholders in a new approach to the city through building based on the principle of sustainability.

Created together with Rome start up Ubi Connected, its CEO David Nespoli hits on what I believe will be a rich source of benefit and innovation for urban citizens when he says,

Ubi Connected’s first project amply expresses our approach of taking commonly used urban items – today the Smart Booth, in future, drinking fountains, benches, waste bins, building facades, kiosks and newsstands – and turning them into new, smart tools that serve people and enhance quality-of-life. These items leverage technology and design to change the appearance of our cities and how we experience them.

Technology for technology’s sake would be merely a frivolous waste of resources and energy, but to consciously augment the utility of otherwise taken for granted everyday objects will do two things at once: Add to the quality of life of area residents and dematerialize what might otherwise be numerous objects serving the multiple functions these devices will be capable of. In a world that is moving in an increasingly urban, increasingly dense direction, objects that take up less space while increasing their contribution is a wise way to go.

Readers: How could you see a Smart Booth being integrated into your location? What issues do you foresee that would make it more locally appropriate? What other everyday item do you see being ripe for useful augmentation?


Paul Smith is a sustainable business innovator, global trend tracker, the founder of GreenSmith Consulting, and has an MBA in Sustainable Management from Presidio Graduate School in San Francisco. He creates interest in, conversations about, and business for green (and greening) companies, via social media marketing.


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